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Recently, a Stratfor analysis was emailed by way, titled: "Al Qaeda's Global Campaign: Tet Offensive or Battle of the Bulge?"

a full duplicate is posted here, not by myself I want to make clear!

I found it to be...not quite cheerleading for the Bushies, but insufficiently out of the box to make a positive impression in this observer.

Short form: I took it apart. I have been underwhelmed by the quality of their analysis on the War on Terror and our most dangerous and imprudent distraction from it, the WMD War in Iraq.

Maybe they'll offer me a job. :)

The thesis:

Either Al Qaida is in the midst of an allegory to the furious German counterattack in the Ardennes Forest against the Allies, or doing something akin to the Tet Offensive.

Stratfor compares and contrasts the two events with one another, and with the recent spate of attacks whose sparseness in comparison to either Tet or the Battle of the Bulge is deeply discounted. It matters not; Stratfor is hammering home that Al Qaida (the presumptive, exclusive source of the WOT that is glibly conflated with Iraq at every turn by Stratfor script) is in dire straits, desperate...what's Cheney's phrase? Ah, yes. In its last throes.

Perhaps they are correct. If so, they do not feel compelled to give their paying customers their money's worth.

Stratfor Speaks

A spate of attacks have occurred recently that we attribute to al Qaeda. In addition to the two rounds of attacks in London this month and the bombings at Sharm el Sheikh, we have seen ongoing suicide bombings in Afghanistan and Iraq that targeted government officials, the bombing of a Sufi shrine in Islamabad, the abduction and murder of an Iranian security official and other killings in the Muslim world. In addition, we have seen an intensification of attacks in Iraq by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's al Qaeda-linked faction. We are not great believers in coincidence and therefore regard these incidents as being coordinated. The degree of coordination and the method whereby coordination is achieved is murky, and not really material. But that we are experiencing an offensive by al Qaeda is clear.

I’m less curious in why there is an increase in the frequency and range of terrorist attacks, including attacks in the heart of core partners in the War on Terror, and more curious why it’s taken this long for the action to get started. The last question of mine has three parts:

  1. Was the original AQ structure completely obliterated four years ago, but has reconstituted itself, or
  2. Has a proliferation of AQ-inspired jihadism occurred as a response to more recent events, either anger or desperation in the face of military operations by the core allies in Iraq and elsewhere, or
  3. Is the slow buildup partly attributable to a gathering sea change in relations between Christendom and Islam, one that is changing not just how rogue states and extremist groups deal with the rest of the world and with one another, but with how more conventional ties (commerce, tourism, friendships, perceptions of other societies and dissent within one’s own vis a vis values) are affected?

My guess is all three. AQ was zapped back to square one after Afghanistan, had a few shots left in it, but by the time the Iraq Invasion happened wasn’t much of a threat. There was probably never a time when America was so right and the rest of the world so obliged (even forthcoming) in its acceptance of this status. That this boon was so short-lived has either of two answers, neither pleasant (1) the Bush administration mishandled the goodwill so badly that it reversed a condition of enhanced security and converted it into the opposite – a world that now hates us, or (2) a world that in fact hated us all along, and saw American weakness in 9/11, and every setback in the WOT is applauded, abetted and capitalized upon. One suggests an avoidable circumstance that was tragically not avoided. The other suggests a condition of dire peril that can only be delayed; that it really has been America versus World the whole time, that jealousy of American greatness trumps all other values, that there truly is no such thing as constructive criticism, or dissent rendered in good faith. And the American people appear to be of two minds as two which way this conceptual coin toss landed.

Perceiving a critical strategic opening, the Bush administration pushed to claim strategic Middle East real estate at the expense of a regime that no one would be comfortable defending by word, never mind by deed. However valuable in tangible terms, taking Iraq (and acting badly once there on a VERY few but infamous occasions) has produced a reaction throughout the Islamic world and among Islamic minorities elsewhere that has made recruitment of well-educated, highly-motivated and out-of-profile (non-Arab, often-secular, often well-to-do) operatives much easier, and these (see: 9/11) have consistently proven to be the fish that most easily slip through the security net and execute their deadly tasks to perfection.

One might say that jihadists would have launched their assault and recruited bombers by the thousands from the squalor imposed on them by their many tyrannical regimes. Frankly, I say that’s absolutely so; Israel alone is a splendid recruiting tool for the terrorists. American influence, in the form of a thousand syndicated TV shows and ten thousand consumer products, is another. And yet, being attacked and conquered (even symbolically) has a way of affecting people’s equilibrium for the worse. I’ve written scenarios about a ‘modernist versus jihadist’ conflict within Islam (on account it’s been going on for a century already) and predicted that a major symptom of this struggle would be, you guessed it, occasional lashing-out in the form of wars (India, civil war in Nigeria), genocides (I had predicted Ethiopia, but southern Sudan is both Christian and nearby), and major terrorist strikes against Western targets within the Islamic sphere and beyond.

What makes this last aspect – that of a gathering storm, an emergent clash of civilizations per Huntington – is that the main pieces have yet to be put into play – two violently opposed camps within Islam, one dedicated to moving forward into the future, one determined to drag the world into the dark ages – and willing to exact terrible punishment on other Muslims to have their will be done, on the scale comparable to the Christian states’ wars in the 19th and 20th centuries…however, that time is approaching, and right soon. Until then, there will be no teeming millions willing to die to assert civilization and freedom in the Middle East – or chauvinism and tyranny – either in the Islamic World or elsewhere.

But once that fight begins, watch out. There will be a real war, and at its fringes a true global terror campaign and we most certainly will be involved in a way that not even the darkest fantasies of the terror war experts have envisaged. There was no way we could not be involved; it was a question of the when, what, where, how, why and to what extent. But as with dealing with natural disaster, dealing with impending major war is a matter of laying down supplies, making preparations, and waiting for the alarm to sound. There is no rushing the hurricane, no diverting its path, no negotiating with its fury. The storm comes of its own accord, and likewise departs. And yet, those who prepare are more likely to survive than those who do not; those who are forewarned are much more likely to survive than those who are surprised.

Back in 1998, I thought that the biggest dangers were the trio of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Sudan. I have seen nothing, not a thing, to divert me from this hypothesis. We have a nuclear Pakistan that blatantly plays both sides of the War on Terror. We have a Saudi Arabia that controls much of the known reserves of both oil and natural gas that does the same thing. We have a Sudan that may have even more energy in its southern regions than its cousin regime across the Red Sea, openly engaging in genocide and slavery.

I see an alliance of all three states, with burgeoning, agitated populations, clamoring for change that none of their governments will give them, all three facile in the face of American military might, both neither together or alone finding the threat of American military intervention, given the real-time evidence of Iraq, to be credible.

And it gets worse – Egypt. Egypt is the true center front in the war to come, the cornerstone of the modern, secular (insofar as America is, which is to say not completely rid of faith) and free Islamic world that could be, if we but gave freedom a nudge. But no matter; a civil war, perhaps a violent revolution, is coming to either Egypt or Algeria, and that will be what shakes the rafters with outrage and dismay.

That is why I find news of any terror attack in Egypt, or word of an official suppression of legitimate opposition from Cairo, to be especially unnerving.

I think Stratfor does not quite see how huge an issue this is, playing to an audience that likes to believe that it is in full control of events.

As if the hurricane could be controlled, rather than survived.

No…we have been playing nothing but a preliminary to the main event, one which we will have to fight in, on terms not completely our own, because real survival values will be at stake – not the nuisance of hijackings, or bus bombings, or the specter of a one-off WMD attack, but the very concrete danger of our energy supplies being devastated, or denied us, of not one attack every several years but several attacks of comparable magnitude every week, because the number of persons working to achieve such deadly ends will be increased by a factor of 200-400.

At issue is the nature of the offensive. To put the matter simply, do these attacks indicate the ongoing, undiminished strength of al Qaeda, or do they represent a final, desperate counterattack -- both within Iraq and globally -- to attempt to reverse al Qaeda's fortunes? In our view, the latter is the case. Al Qaeda, having been hammered over the past four years, and al-Zarqawi, facing the defection of large segments of his Sunni base of support, are engaged in a desperate attempt to reverse the course of the war. It is not clear that they will fail; such counter-offensives have succeeded in recent years. The question is whether this is a Tet offensive or a Battle of the Bulge.

AQ’s fortunes were indeed reversed. Zarqawi’s situation in Iraq is untenable in the long run. But the prospects for the jihadist movement have never been better, and will only improve as the circumstances both in Iraq and elsewhere in the Islamic World (Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Egypt) become more polarized along the very questions of secularization and globalization, freedom and moral values, that preoccupy Americans to distraction, but in far less prosperous circumstances drive people to violence. I’d have to say AQ had its ‘Bulge’, and it was found inadequate. As for the AQ spin-offs…I just don’t think Zarqawi has sufficient outreach into radical Shi’a circles to make a difference – and there’s far too much established competition there (Sadr, for starters), for him to even bother. The worst-case a la Zarqawi is to perpetuate an ‘intifada Iraq’, which would tie down American (ahem, Coalition) forces for decades (the Israeli Defense Forces, with far greater military superior and penetration of the Occupied Territories), are no closer to pacifying those regions now than they were in 1967. And as with Arafat’s Fatah movement: As one faction is co-opted or eliminated (or some of both, as with Fatah), three or four more pop up to resume jihad. People who do not wish to be ruled by people they do not like can and will keep fighting, and train their children and grandchildren to do likewise.

Time for a side the American Revolution

Imagine an America where the British had won (tentatively) the ‘American Rebellion of 1776’, where Washington had been unable to flee across the Delaware and regroup at Valley Forge, and had instead been shipped to the Admiralty Court at Halifax, Nova Scotia, tried, and hung for treason. The British, already in a mood that the Americans had it far too easy for far too long, would have imposed stringent controls on their wild cousins in the Colonies, would have imported more tractable settlers, wave after wave of them, as they extended their unchallenged Industrial Revolution with no America to ultimately surpass them. Having the resources of all of North America as their own, British manufactures would have undersold all comers for another two generations. The French would not have sold Louisiana to the British Crown, but no matter; the Crown would have seized New Orleans and the entire Mississippi Basin as its own by force. The Spanish Americas would have collapsed in short order, or been co-opted as protectorates, hostile to Spain, and subsidized by England.

Other shoe time --- all of the above assumes one thing – that the once-rebellious Americans would have acquiesced so easily. I just don’t see it that way. I think, rather, it would have gone this way: The British, having won, would have exacted compensation for its victory, and proving by deed before the eyes of all, all of the accusations made in the Declaration of Independence, to the point of alienating the large portion of the Colonial populace that were still Tories at the time of the Battle of Yorktown…though of course everyone was all about the freedom once Cornwallis sailed for home. It should be mentioned that about ten years of street fights and guerilla insurgency preceded the Battle of Lexington; it wasn’t as if someone suddenly decided during a round of drinks down at the pub: “Let’s have a revolution!”. Oh, no. Considerable groundwork was set in place…a foundation that would remain and in fact be strengthened by the fires of defeat.

I think, after a short time, life for both British soldiers and transportees (I imagine a lot of folks who might have been bound for Australia would instead find themselves in the American Colonies) would be increasingly dangerous; the backwoods would never be successfully tamed by the British, save by a scorched-earth policy. Further, the Americans would in time find natural allies amongst the Indians who, despite having sided with the British during the ‘Rebellion’, would soon recognize that the sudden influx of new colonists belied all promises made them by the Crown. The Indians would soon be taught how to make their own rifles and ammunition, even cannon, in return for aid in the insurgency. Confiscations, evictions and general all-round persecution of Patriot families would drive many over the mountains into the west where, coincidentally, the real wealth of the Americas resided.

The British would try, repeatedly, to build railheads into the coaling areas of the Midatlantic states, to construct steel and textile miles, to mine for gold in the Carolinas. Every time, they would find their profits eviscerated by bandits, thieves, brigands, pirates, all the bad words of the day. Reprisals would be made, hostages taken, executions held. It would just get worse, and all the time the Crown and Parliament would be wondering if all those millions of Pounds sterling would not be better invested in a more tractable colony like, say, India. But the good fight must be won, once engaged, and the long, slow burning of the Americas would continue onward.

Except for one thing – Napoleon. Shut of the Americans in our own timeline, the British would be hamstrung in the Napoleonic Wars in this alternate reality, incapable of letting go of America, for fear of losing it to Bonaparte’s gain, or of keeping it, for doing so when at a known disadvantage would embolden the ‘bandits and brigands’ all the more. On the other hand, Napoleon was a syphilitic nutjob who would not have lasted much longer than he did, regardless…but the British did not know this for sure. Further,  being in a war for its own survival, England might have taken far more severe (and in the short run, effective) measures to curtail insurgency in the Americas, which would have assured a lasting enmity should the Americans ever rid themselves of  British tyranny. But the British would not worry over such matters, having their own necks against Napoleon’s axe, as it were, and would leave the future for the future to sort out.

Basically, it would have gotten worse, and quickly, the longer the British tarried in North America. The Americans simply did not want British rule, and had telegraphed this for quite some time before the actual Revolution. The British refused to treat such a schism as being anything but evil treachery, and outrage that must be punished, simply for voicing a desire to be anything but an Englishman (present company of Scots and Welsh excepted, of course).

Back to Iraq

It can go badly, worse, and much worse. The losing condition is not departing Iraq, but in outstaying a welcome that is no longer there. The British could have profited famously from federation with a collection of free American colonies, and greatly extended its power and influence over world affairs thereby, even more from inclusion of same in Parliament. They chose to be insulted by the very idea, and respond to such proposals with proposals to restrict the colonials even further, to remind them of their proper and inferior position in the affairs of Commonwealth. That attitude, accompanied by several armies and a host of punitive Acts of Parliament, did not sail well on the other side of the Atlantic, and what was once a possible rebellion became an inevitable revolution.

The possible risks of sticking around that the British faced (and, eventually, overcame) were:

  1. Making a lasting enemy out of former friends and countrymen.
  2. Foregoing easily-sustained and –expanded profits for expensively-gained and ever-diminishing plunder.
  3. Tying down significant ground and naval forces to enforce British influence.
  4. Being incapable of attack (or, worse, effectively answering attack) on other fronts as a result of preoccupation in the American Colonies.
Foregoing superior investment of political, military and economic capital elsewhere, such as in India.
  1. Loss of superior investments by being tied down in unprofitable pursuits in the Americas.
  2. Setting precedent for future wars, as enemy powers take advantage of the slow damage to British power and prestige caused by the preoccupation in the Americas.
  3. Higher taxes, inflation, deprivation of the homeland economy to pay for the neverending war in America.
  4. Increased dissension, unrest at home and in other colonies.
  5. The cluck-clucking of armchair analysts, such as myself.

In warfare, as one side is being pressed to the point of no return, the classic maneuver is to marshal all available strength for an offensive designed to turn the tide. The offensive has a high probability of military failure and, therefore, would not be attempted until military defeat or an unacceptable political outcome appeared inevitable. The goal is to inflict a blow so striking that it throws the other side off balance. More important, it should create a crisis of confidence in the enemy's command structure and its political base. It should be a surprise attack, causing commanders to question their intelligence organizations' appreciation of the other side's condition. It should have a significant military impact. Above all, it should redefine the enemy public's perception of the course of the war. Ideally, it should set the stage for a military victory -- but more probably, it would set the stage for a political settlement.

That’s pretty good. I’d extend the paradigm a bit:

  1. Gather intel on the logistics, doctrine, and propaganda of the enemy.
  2. Determine the best means of exploiting weaknesses and mitigating strengths of same.
  3. Plan the logistics, doctrine and propaganda for the big push
  4. Motivate your forces – make sure they believe in the plan
  5. Prepare your forces – make sure they have what they need to carry it out
  6. Place your forces – make sure everyone knows their part of the big picture, and the parts of the players beside them
  7. Rest ‘em up for the big game.
  8. Make changes, and lots of them, in the last few days, hours and even minutes of the countdown, just to keep ‘em guessing.
  9. Review and revise cycle as the game is underway.

Post-game: Make sure you get the word out, first to your own troops, then to the world, about how much damage you inflicted on the enemy. Force him to explain to his own people how losing several hundred troops, an entire airfield full of strike helicopters, and control of half a dozen cities ain’t all that bad.

Also Post-game: Make sure no one know that you spent 40% of your combat-ready troops to get the job done, and that you will be still gasping for breath three months down the road, if you last that long.

What Stratfor Thinks of the Battle of the Bulge

In December 1944, the Germans understood they were going to be defeated by the spring of 1945, when Soviet and Anglo-American forces would simultaneously smash into Germany. They gathered what force they had to attempt a surprise counterattack. Anglo-American intelligence organizations had concluded that the Germans were finished. The Germans took advantage of this by striking through the Ardennes forest. Their goal was the port of Antwerp.

The fall of Antwerp -- or at least, the ability to interfere with access to the port -- would not have defeated the Allies. However, it would have constrained Allied offensive operations and forced postponement of the spring offensive. It also would have shaken the confidence in the Allied high command and both Roosevelt and Churchill. The unexpected nature of the offensive would have created a political crisis and opened the door to either a redefinition of Allied war aims or, possibly, a separate peace in the West.

From a military standpoint, the attack was a long shot, but not a preposterous one. Had the Germans crossed the Meuse River, they could have approached Antwerp at least. In the event, if we consider the panic that gripped the Allied high command even without the Germans reaching the Meuse, their crossing of it would have had massive repercussions. Whether it would have had political consequences is unclear. As it was, the offensive failed in the first days. It was liquidated in a matter of weeks, and the war concluded catastrophically for Germany.

What the Germans did

They knew the timetable of the Allies, and political pressure to keep the westward advance rolling – in no small measure out of fear of Stalin having all of Germany to himself, and what that would mean for the postwar order – and even nastier threat on the Continent to have to deal with in an almost-certain future war.
The Germans figured, rightly, that if they could inflict a significant delay on the Allies, that they would panic Churchill and Roosevelt on this account. Cutting Allied access to ports closest to the Rhine would accomplish. Further, there may have been a much bigger payoff for the Nazis (or at least a post-Nazi military regime) than getting a separate peace with the British and the Americans – getting (brace yourself) assistance from erstwhile enemies against the onslaught of Communist aggression. Since this is, in fact, what eventually transpired, the notion is not so far-fetched as it might seem.
As Germans still do, the Wehrmacht planned the counterstrike to the last matchstick.
The troops involved were the crème de la crème of the Reich’s remaining forces; nothing was spared. This was the last big gambit for the Germans.
Supplies were diverted from all fronts, including precious air cover. The one thing that could not be materialized out of thin air was fuel. This would prove to be the Achilles’ Heel of the plan.
The Germans were not so big on giving smaller unit commanders the big picture, but there was no lack of enthusiasm or confidence at any level among the troops in play, though one idea must have persisted, perhaps as an additional motivator, perhaps as a monkey on the back: Many were Waffen SS; they knew their fate, should the Allies prevail.
The Germans did not have the luxury of granting their core troops R&R; fatigue, too, would play a role in the defeat.
It was just not in the nature of the Nazis to change plans, after having spent so much love and care in developing them. Reality would have to accommodate. J
The German high command knew it was a bad idea very quickly into the game; the Americans in particular were too flexible, too numerous, too well-supplied and too enthusiastic to overcome. Further, some of the actions taken by the Waffen SS units during the battle (Malmedy massacre, for starters) only made the Americans that much more determined to press on. As a result, whatever fantasy the Reich had about making common alliance with the West against Stalin was not born but buried by the Battle of the Bulge.
On a lighter topic, a great uncle of mine fought in the Ardennes. His unit was completely surrounded by, his estimate, 10,000 SS troops, and no shortage of artillery, Panzer and air cover…then the fuel ran out, the skies became full of Mustang tank-killer planes, and the cavalry (tanks, really) came over the hill in the nick of time.

I’m of the belief that no one should go all-in unless there’s a realistic chance of getting the big pay-off. Much of warfare is about playing for time; betting the farm on an offensive strike should never be done out of desperation, though this approach is often romanticized in war fiction, and the heavily-fictionalized accounts of real-life battles. A larger sample of Tet-like events will reveal that most such gambits, when successful, are attributable to exceptional overachievement in logistics, planning and mobilization by inferior forces that usually get their butts kicked to Hell and back for the temerity of slapping a superior force in the face. The prime example of a politically and tactically successful “Tet” was the Battle of Little Bighorn, where an unheard-of 5,000 (?) strong war party obliterated several hundred members of the 7th Cavalry under Custer. The Sioux never massed in such numbers, had negligible firearms, were terrified of the Bluecoats when they arrived in strength. And yet, despite suffering harrowing losses on their side, the Sioux not only killed the 7th, almost (but not quite, big mistake) to the last man, but tripled their stock of firearms in a matter of hours. The notoriety of the attack would motivate settlers and soldiers alike to treat the Sioux with a combination of uncontrolled fear and contempt, to the point of arming both Crow and Comanche bands and giving them carte blanche to deal with the Sioux as they pleased. Interestingly enough, no one talks much about either Crow or Comanche, not in comparison to the place of the Sioux in American legendry. One suspects that the Sioux would have been better served by keeping their massacre of the 7th Cavalry to themselves…but that just wasn’t the Sioux way.

What Stratfor Thinks of the Tet Offensive

A more successful example of a terminal offensive was the North Vietnamese offensive in February 1968. The Johnson administration had been arguing, with some logic, that the North Vietnamese forces were being worn down effectively by the United States, and that they were on the defensive and declining. The Tet offensive was intended to reverse the waning fortunes of the North Vietnamese. There were a number of goals. First and foremost, the offensive was designed to demonstrate to all parties that the North Vietnamese retained a massive offensive capability. It was intended to drive a wedge between U.S. commanders in Saigon and the political leaders in Washington by demonstrating that the Saigon command was providing misleading analysis. Finally, it was intended to drive a wedge between the Johnson administration and the American public.

From a strictly military standpoint, Tet was a complete disaster. It squandered scarce resources on an offensive that neither reduced U.S. strength nor gained and held strategic objectives. After the offensive was over, the North Vietnamese army was back where it had started, with far fewer troops or supplies.

From the political point of view, however, it was wildly successful. A chasm opened between the civilian leadership in Washington and Gen. William Westmoreland in Saigon. Westmoreland's rejection of intelligence analyses pointing to an offensive undermined confidence in him. Far more important, Johnson's speeches about lights at the end of the tunnel lost all credibility, in spite of the fact that he wasn't altogether wrong. The apparent success of the Tet offensive forced a re-evaluation of American strategy in Vietnam, Johnson's decision not to stand for re-election and a general sense that the U.S. government had vastly underestimated the strength and tenacity of the North Vietnamese.

What the NVA and the Viet Cong did

  1. TV is global; they saw what the Johnson administration was serving up to the American people: Claims of imminent success. That he was telling the truth (See right below) in fact made what happened not only possible, but critical. The VC were in a dire bind; without the risk of active NVA participation in insurgent activities, something which would grant the Americans carte blanche to retaliate as they saw fit against the North, the war would be lost for the Communists. Basically, the Communists were compelled to split the bet, and double the risk. They would lose one hand, and deal blackjack on the second. The rest, of course, is history.

  2. I think the Tet was less concerned with daunting the Americans than with energizing the VC, who were getting slaughtered 30-to-1 compared to casualties inflicted on the Americans. To say that they needed a pick-me-up was an understatement; the NVA had been supplying the VC with arms for 15 years, but now was the time for the NVA to roll up their sleeves and get involved in the terror campaign directly. It would be a typical VC raid, only one carried out with the full backing and participating of the Communist regime to the north. Thus, while embarrassing Johnson was useful, obtaining a much-needed recommitment from the South Vietnamese insurgents who were in fact getting their clocks cleaned (Johnson was right on this score) was the sine qua non, and the incentive for the North Vietnamese to become much more engaged in the fight, at great cost to themselves.
  3. The plan was to attack hundreds of targets, coincident with the fireworks and distractions of Tet. There had, in fact, between similar assaults on previous Tet holidays, so American forces were on alert. It would be the audacious scale of the assault that would surprise and amaze.
  4. Thousands of NVA were infiltrated into the ranks of the VC, taking cover as peasants, workers, professional sympathizers. They came plans, contacts and gear for months of activity afterward.
  5. Many of the NVA who showed up for the Tet Offensive were to offer up their lives in attacks on American strongpoints; this was to be well-publicized amongst the South Vietnamese people, as a gesture of solidarity…and, of course, a significant recruiting ploy. It would work famously.
  6. The big picture relayed to the insurgent troops was simple – wreak havoc, sow discord, generate fear and dismay. Take out as many as you can before they get you. The only planning involved was placing the rabid dogs, pointing them in the right direction, and unleashing them. The rest was momentum. No thought was given to survival. That was never the point.
  7. I have heard that there was a significant lull in VC action for several weeks prior to Tet, but I cannot back that up. Resting the team up for the big game?
  8. Since there was not much of a battle plan, or much concern about destroying assets or securing turf, the emphasis was on getting a lot of operatives pre-placed, along with their gear, for attack on high-profile, high-publicity targets. Yes, the Americans would see and better still, so would the South Vietnamese. The NVA and VC knew that if they could secure another decade of ‘people’s revolution’, then the question was not if but when the war would be won. The Americans would stay or leave at their own pleasure, but it was a big world, and America had many enemies. Sooner or later, another war would call on the United States, and they would depart. However, if the Americans were made to see that the insurgency was not an invasion from ‘the North’, but rather an uprising by all the Vietnamese, then they would find part of their own history accusing them – their own American Revolution. (I do believe this is a reasonable paraphrase of Ho Chi Minh’s own thoughts.)
  9. The Americans won, and famously, on the ground. They also, in the eyes of many (and many eyes were made to see this) ‘ruined’ Tet, which only added to the recruiting value of the offensive. The American JCS knew right away the import of the offensive: while it was now possible to frame the Vietnam War as an invasion from the North (which was done), the reality on the ground was that the VC would move from being a nuisance to being a real danger. And now out in the open, not taking heavy punitive action against the North (bombing, since invasion due to China’s proximity was out of the question) was impossible. And bombing the north only made recruiting for the VC that much easier in the South, as appeals to Vietnamese nationalism in the face of (old refrain) foreign military aggression were made and received.
  10. On a lighter topic, a neighbor of mine was an LT, who was departing for home…the day of Tet. He not only had his departure delayed, but had to defend the perimeter of an airfield for three days with no sleep. He described being in sight of a tall chain-link fence marking the airbase, way down a steep earth embankment where soil and debris had been graded to form the SeaBee-constructed airstrip. It was far from an ideal situation; his platoon was pinned down the whole time by a combination of sniper and mortar fire, who had excellent background to spot GIs against, thanks to the red and white coloration of the bank behind them. Thanks to a combination of innovation and canteen water, the GIs painted their helmets, faces and as much of their gear as possible with a mud paste. A grisly detail – when short of water, blood from less fortunate GIs was applied. My neighbor said he never once saw the face of the enemy. Perhaps his men hit something with return fire, perhaps not. He just doesn’t know, but one thing – he made it back to the world.

The Vietnamese Communists were mostly negotiating with a party in even worse straits than itself – the Viet Cong. The bargaining chips were (a) participating direcftly in the insurgency in the South, and (b) offering themselves as targets for American bomber and (no one knew for sure) possible ground attack to relieve VC operations in the south.  That the American president was embarrassed was nice, but it was a fringe benefit, as with renewed VC enthusiasm for the campaign, the Americans would be embarrassed soon enough, as the North Vietnamese saw it. The Paris talks were nice, but both parties recognized them as what they were – face-saving initiatives, plays for time that sometimes favored Hanoi, sometimes Washington, and were never going to result in a true détente, as neither side perceived a political settlement to be practicable nor desirable. Once Tet occurred, the North had no way to fall back to the DMZ; the country would be unified as one Vietnam, either under Hanoi, or under a US-backed Saigon regime. There would be no in-between. The US might have accepted a pullback to the old borders, but now faced a much-magnified insurgency with blatant backing from a hostile country to the north, neither of which had any intention of stopping the onslaught. Perhaps if the North had repudiated revolution as a form of foreign policy, and assisted the USA in identifying and crushing VC cells, the US might have backed off use of bomber raids as a form of pressure, and accepted a peace treaty based on the DMZ border. However, the last thing the revolutionary Hanoi regime could have done was disavow its own grounds for legitimacy – social revolution for all the Vietnamese people. As a result, the VC grew stronger, the NVA’s presence in the south, even control of territory in South Vietnam, grew, and the bombing campaigns, despite their devastating effectiveness, only emboldened the Communists and embarrassed the Americans.

In that respect, Tet killed two birds with one stone…but it might serve analysts at Stratfor better to consider more closely what stone was most important to the North Vietnamese, and why. Sometimes, the media war at the heart of the Vietnam conflict fought in other countries’ living rooms.

What the AQ’s are up to

In light of the above lessons:

  1. If the Americans are the target, the weakest link in American national security right now is without a doubt confidence in the Bush Administration, and credibility of the same. Not only most of the free world but much of the United States itself has lost trust in the American president and his advisors.
  2. Undermining what confidence and credibility remains would reap the prize of a United States engrossed in partisan recriminations and questions of war policy and prosecution of same, disputes which would percolate from the civilian and political spheres into the intelligence and military organizations.
  3. An America rife with open strife and dissension would invite opportunistic challenges from all fronts, not merely from Islamic enemies but others such as North Korea and Myanmar, from nominal new friends such as Russia and China, and old allies such as Japan and Europe looking to renegotiate their status within the alliance…or finding new friends to hang out with.
  4. Under such circumstances, the array of American military might scattered across and around the Islamic sphere would go from controversial to untenable; a crisis of confidence in leadership would degrade into a crisis in doctrine.
  5. And all the AQs would have to do to keep the ball rolling all the way down the hill is, once it started rolling, to keep. Completely. Quiet.
  6. For it is my opinion that the real target of AQ, once the Americans were out of the picture, was Saudi Arabia for its oil, Pakistan for its nukes, Egypt for its industry, and Sudan for both enthusiastic recruits and the last great open ground for jihad – central Africa.
  7. Why central Africa? Consider this – there is nowhere not within 500 miles of open water that the Americans cannot inflict nonstop damage upon with ease. The US just doesn’t fight on behalf of deeply-landlocked peoples, with exactly one exception – Afghanistan, and doing so required unprecedented tolerance from every one of Afghanistan’s neighbors including Iran, and quite simply Afghanistan either required this exertion or else required a sortie of ICBMs. There was no overlooking Afghanistan after 9/11.
  8. Also, this is where Islam is expanding most aggressively, at the expensive of colonial-legacy Christian populations (I guess the locals forgot about Arab slavers, long enough for the Sudanese to reintroduce the practice).
  9. Finally, Africa is where the last great untapped reserves of petroleum lie, that is, unless the pack ice in Antarctica has something to hide, five miles down.
  10. Oil, opportunity and Christians to kill, none of them as well-armed as the Europeans or the Americans. There’s your AQ plan for the future – get the USA to become embroiled in political contention, better still outright unrest, and build a base for itself on the most expansionist, aggressive and isolated reaches of the Islamic world.


I may be guilty of going way too deep and too far afield in my analysis, but that's far less of a crime than staying at the shallow end of the pool, clinging to the side.

Originally posted to cskendrick on Sun Aug 07, 2005 at 07:23 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  For anybody who read the whole damn thing (4.00)
    Give yourself a 5. :)

    Wilbur from Charlotte's Web turned out okay, and he was just some pig. :)

    by cskendrick on Sun Aug 07, 2005 at 07:24:47 PM PDT

    •  Holy crap (none)
      You really went to town with that diary.  I admit I didn't read the whole thing so I'll give you a 4 instead and we'll call it even. LOL.

      I voted for John Kerry and all I got was this lousy sticker...

      by diplomatic on Sun Aug 07, 2005 at 07:57:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  forget the 5 (none)
      and put out "Chapter 4".....

      Did you hear the US has shut down it's consulate and embassy in Saudi Arabia through Tuesday?

      "If you don't get this female mutt out of here I'll rip her to shreds." Sheila Devore

      by Miss Devore on Sun Aug 07, 2005 at 08:03:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  My guess (none)
        Prince Abdullah controls the Saudi National Guard, which handles most internal security issues in the kingdom.

        I think we're helping Abdullah to consolidate his power on the pretense of fighting AQ and AQ-related terrorists -- and carte blanche to take care of any other loose ends he might have.

        Watch for a massive crackdown on a scale that the Arabians have not seen since the the Iranians backed an abortive Saudi Shi'a insurgency back in the early 1980s.

        You might want to buy some energy stock. :)

        Wilbur from Charlotte's Web turned out okay, and he was just some pig. :)

        by cskendrick on Sun Aug 07, 2005 at 08:53:03 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Halliburton, the oil services/infrastructure... (none)
          company (HAL) is posting consecutive 52-week highs about every 3-5 days in most recent weeks. I get the alerts sent to me as I watch this stock as a political barometer for the current occupants in the White House.

          People in Eurasia on the brink of oppression: I hope it's gonna be alright... Pet Shop Boys: Introspective

          by rgilly on Mon Aug 08, 2005 at 05:44:37 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  I think your analysis misses one key point (4.00)
    abut Vietnam  -- and that is the US backing the Diem regime in not participating in the planned national elections to unify Vietnam as one nation that were part of the Geneva Accords that led to the French withdrawal after Dein Bien Phu (when some of the joint chiefs wanted to use nukes but Eisenhower said no  -- and btw, the issue of nukes came up again at Khe Sanh).  There was not doubt the Ho Chi Minh would easily have won a ntaionl election, so we resisted.

    Further, Ho had been our ally against the Japanese - he was a nominal communist but a strong nationalist.  He oulcd hav been a strong bulwark against the Chinese, whom the Vietnamese hated )remember what happened in Cholon during Tet - a real settling of scores against ethnic Chinese).  Ho had wanted the US to accept the Japanese surrender in Indo China.   Churchill insisted on the British accepting it, and promptly turned it back over to the French.  The entire series of Vietnam wars  - against the French and then against us - could have been avoided had we accepted the surrender.  

    So the key point where I disagree with your analysis is that I do not think it was ever acceptable to Ho Chi MInh and General Giap to have a divided Vietnam -  they thought they'd be promised a unified nation under the Genva Accords, and apparently they were willing to die to achieve it.

    I also think your analysis does not address that - the willingness of the Vietnamese to die in great numbers in order to achieve that goal.  I was in NYC in 1968, and I remember multiple conversation in which people said effectively that unless we were willing to kill all the N Vietnamese we could not win the conflict.  Now, if this analysis is correct, it is strikingly similar to what you are seeing now in Iraq, and also bears a striking resemblance to the French experience in Algeria.

    I want to talk about this last.  Before the war in Irq started, a number of senior military commanders watched the film The Battle for Algiers (music by Ennio Morricone, btw).  The French were successful in killing or capturing most of the reble leadership, but that did not solve the problem - in fact it only made it worse.  One might avhe thought having seen the film, and analyzed that history, our actions in Iraq might have reflected that understanding.  Our actions do not.  And we are travelling down the same path.

    I do not claim any great military expertise  - I only reached E-2 during my stint in the USMC.  I do read military history and analysis as well as political analysis.  And I have a strong memory for events to which I was paying attention when they happened.  I don't know if these words add anything to your otherwise fairly thorough and interesting discourse, but here they are.

    Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

    by teacherken on Sun Aug 07, 2005 at 08:02:40 PM PDT

    •  By all means, Teach (none)
      Comment -- and contradict.

      That's what discourse is all about. :)

      I thought I had covered that what the US might have shot for -- the status quo ante division -- would have required not one but two major concessions that the North was not only unprepared but unrequired by the reality on the ground to make -- (a) foregoing unification, and (b) bailing out on Charlie.

      But it was a lot of words in one draft.

      I might have missed that.

      Thanks for the clarification.

      High morale, willingness to accept very high casualties

      The willingness of the North to double up the bet and in effect invite the U.S. to bomb the North wholesale, drawing fire to give Charlie some breathing room, and send thousands to die in the macabre drama of the Tet Offensive, speaks to that point...again, not as eloquently.


      I was in the process of being born when the Tet Offensive occurred.

      There is no better resource than people who lived what to me is history.

      Important history, fought over tooth and nail, but history nonetheless, and valuable for being so.

      Wilbur from Charlotte's Web turned out okay, and he was just some pig. :)

      by cskendrick on Sun Aug 07, 2005 at 08:47:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Very interesting. (none)
    I enjoy this kind of diary. Thanks.
  •  Phew! (4.00)
    Ok, I didn't read every word, but I think I got through about 95% of it.

    Man, there's a lot there.  Can I just comment on two things, while I think about digesting the rest?

    First, your analysis of Tet is fantastic.  I've read some on the subject, and I've never seen anything quite like yours.  You took a few data points that I knew about (Viet Minh were on the run before the offensive, North got more actively involved afterward as the US stepped up open assaults) and tied them together in ways that I'd never really thought about, but make absolutely perfect sense.

    Of course, the intended audience of Tet was the South Vietnamese!  And, of course, the theatrics of the offensive were wildly successful in shoring up Southern support for the revolution!  It's the key to the whole war, and you did it really concisely and in a very convincing way.

    Second, and this is really minor, I disagree with your counter-factual on the American Revolution.  I think the evidence is pretty clear that if Washington had fallen after the Battle of Long Island, the thing would have been pretty much over.  Didn't the Continental Army have something like 20,000 men in New York before the British invasion?  Many of those were veterans of the siege of Boston, and all had received substantial training.  How many were still following orders at the Battle of Trenton?  I believe it was 1500, maybe 2000.  Now, American losses at New York were at most 1500 men -- the rest of the attrition is due almost entirely to desertion.  Congress also was beginning to debate the efficacy of continuing the war before Trenton.

    All that is probably consistent with what you wrote, but it leads me to the conclusion that without the victories at Trenton and Princeton broad support for the war effort through the colonies would have collapsed.  That's the kind of thing that once you lose it, it's hard to get back.  When you consider that a majority of the American population was either neutral or Tory, and that most of the neutral would have quickly reinvented themselves as Tory in the event of an easy British victory, the British also would have the advantage of a supportive local population with skills in governing and deep knowledge of local terrain, customs, and mores.

    I haven't thought through the international implications of a British victory, but there's a strong possibility there never would have been a French revolution without the American one.  I'm not talking here so much about the ideological influence of the Americans (which of course was substantial) but the financial impact on the French treasury of underwriting the American war effort.  It was those loans, after all, that Louis was trying to pay off when he called the Estates General in 1789.  Without all that bad debt -- which Benjamin Franklin had been instrumentally in winning -- the immediate political conditions for the French revolution would never have existed.

    I dunno.  Still, it's interesting stuff.

    I cried when they shot Medgar Evers
    tears ran down my spine
    -- Phil Ochs

    by litho on Sun Aug 07, 2005 at 08:49:23 PM PDT

    •  Nice. (none)
      Your "counter-counter factual" (heh heh) is really turning my noodle. That's a good point about the French Revolution not having much traction without the example of the Americans.

      Still...Parliament had developed a strongly vindictive attitude toward the Americans long before the Declaration of Independence was penned. George III was consolidating a strong constitutional monarchy, ruling through Parliament, but a domesticated Parliament.

      And despite the caricatures of the Hannover king, his party (the "King's men") were numerous and very tightly-orchestrated, and for the years leading up to the Revolution only gained in prominence; had the British put down the uprising in the Colonies, the meta-policy of reminding the 'Americans' of their second-tier status in the Empire would have continued, which would mean several more decades of making the Americans equals -- of other colonized nations of the emerging British Empire.

      A lot of the politics of Revolution happened before the Revolution itself. And it was not a trajectory that, unbroken, would have made any segment of Colonial society content, never mind pleased.

      Wilbur from Charlotte's Web turned out okay, and he was just some pig. :)

      by cskendrick on Sun Aug 07, 2005 at 09:03:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You're clearly right (none)
        about the British politics end of it.  Their arrogance and shortsightedness caused the revolution in the first place, and winning a war certainly wouldn't have cured them of either one.

        But, you know, I'm thinking of people like Franklin and Otis and even John Adams, I suspect, who we look at now as essentially symbolic of the patriot spirit, but who looked at themselves essentially as Englishmen.  Adams, in fact, wrote Abigail from the First Continental Congress that independence definitely was not on the agenda, and it's telling that one of the first acts of the Second Congress -- meeting just a couple months after Lexington and Concord -- was to draft the Olive Branch petition, which apologized for killing the king's soldiers and begged him not to invade.

        Sure, there would have been ongoing patriot sentiment after a military defeat, but if the majority supported maintaining the colonial relationship, why wouldn't those patriots have been as easy to round up as Shays's men, or the Whiskey rebels?

        I guess my thesis is that the solid businessmen that led the war effort would have mostly resigned themselves to the status quo after Washington and most of the Congressmen were hung.

        I cried when they shot Medgar Evers
        tears ran down my spine
        -- Phil Ochs

        by litho on Sun Aug 07, 2005 at 09:15:42 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Interesting diary (none)
    Finally made it through the whole thing ;)

    My main thought is that their premise is absolute junk.

    Both Tet and the Ardennes offensive were the plans laid by governments.  I don't think AQ is really anything like this at all at this point.  To put it simplistically, the main reason this is of import, is that there is an inbuilt imperitive to control territory by a government so that you have some place to keep your civilians.

      AQ is more along the line of a guerrila operation, where the absolute control of any territory for a prolonged amount of time is not necessary.  If you are attacked in an area, withdraw and wait for your opponent to get bored and leave.  Picking to fight only when it advantageous to you to fight.

    About your commentary though.  I do have point, do you expect the ruling house of Saudi Arabia to go without blowing the Oil Fields.  I heard a report a few months ago, that they have them rigged with dirty bombs and if the family fears it is losing control they plan to take the fields with them.

    •  Back in the 1970s, I believe (none)
      The Saudis seeded their fields with dirty bombs. That's why the Oil Embargo worked.

      It's also why Hussein saw no reason to keep sweeping south through Dhahran during the Gulf War; there was no percentage in doing so, though we were terrified that he might feint an invasion, just to force the Saudis into taking out their own oilfields and harming the Americans thereby.

      Oh, well. Not an evil madmen are evil geniuses, too. :)

      PS - It is my understanding that a British firm hooked the Saudis up with their nuclear option, but that may be incorrect.

      Wilbur from Charlotte's Web turned out okay, and he was just some pig. :)

      by cskendrick on Sun Aug 07, 2005 at 09:09:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Strafor analysis is a load of crap (none)
    "Either Al Qaida is in the midst of an allegory to the furious German counterattack in the Ardennes Forest against the Allies, or doing something akin to the Tet Offensive."

    Grand offensive? With what? Just how many actual combat forces do you think 'Al Qaida' has?

    Makes a nice headline, sells lots of this guys books.

    Read some of the analysis that like the "Report to Congress on Measuring Stabilty and security in Iraq" that is available here and elsewhere.

    Key points:
    1)At year two unemployement is officially 28%, thats equal to the great depression. Add in lots of killing by all sides.

    2) No outside support from a super power.
    Yeah, Syria may be sending lots of people, unoffically, as they would just as soon we kill them so they don't try overthrowing the government back home. (Sound familiar? Try Saudi Arabia in the '80s)

    3)At least three tribal and ethnic areas: Kurds, Shia and Sunnis. They are not about to let outsiders take over; especially not Bin Laden.

    4) The US: We are a long way from any real unrest or political upheaval hear. Hell, Bushes kids won't go (and nobody is asking them to but us) and there's no draft.

    Most people here are getting fed up with the lies of this administration yet they know the only real change will be after the 2006 congressional elections. That might shift power in Congress to the Democrats; who will damn well demand answers from the DoD and others. That and 18 more months to finally train some semblance of an army in Iraq, since W is too damn stupid to recall the old army back to active service; will be the only thing to 'change the course' of this conflict.

  •  Huh? (none)
    Desperation last offensive?  My Cong grow day by day in sophistication and numbers.  Your will is weak and easily broken.  Capture my pawn Zarqawi (OK bishop, I'll promote him since I'm on THE EIGHT RANK ALREADY!) and another will rise to take his place.

    Capture me, torture me, whatever- it's too late already.

    The idea is out there, and people have seen that it can come true.

    This war is over.  US 0 Me 1.


    Sorry, that demon ouija board took over my soul again damn it.

    In a more reasoned vein, the real problem is that Radical Islam is totally validated.  Our only hope now is that corrupt authoritarian governments will hold the line out of their own self interest (what is the over/under on Musharraf today anyway?)

    Love him, hate him Osama has successfully framed the first fifty years of the twenty first century.  We may end up hoping for our own Chuck the Hammer.

  •  Stratfor is not making the right comparisons... (none)
    this is more like the French in Spain during the Napoleonic Era, where the resistance is prolonged and continuous.

    Then the British show up...

    People in Eurasia on the brink of oppression: I hope it's gonna be alright... Pet Shop Boys: Introspective

    by rgilly on Mon Aug 08, 2005 at 05:08:18 AM PDT

  •  Nuts! (none)
    (That was the reply, in its entirety, of the American commander in the Ardennes before the Battle of the Bulge to the German commander's order that they surrender.)

    Nuts is also the parallel of Al Qaeda's MO with the Battle of the Bulge. I will print the diary and read it later, but let me remind you that a few years ago, an interview was published featuring two purported Al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan. They said that they would win because it's their terrain, and they can afford to stay for a long time and just pop up here and there and "harass" the Americans, who have to bring jet fighters and helicopters to retaliate. AQ and the US knows that this is unsustainable. We've also done a wonderful job of rallying Muslims against us. Anyway, I just don't see the parallel with the BoB. (I'm a native of Brussels, BTW.)

    Anyway, thanks in advance for the history lessons. I know little about Tet but have wanted to know more.

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